The director of radio for N.W.T.'s aboriginal radio station CKLB says the station is phasing in programming after the territorial government committed $400,000 to get it back on the air.

The station had been broadcasting pre-programmed country music and ads from the South since it went off air last August because federal funding was late arriving.

Dëneze Nakehk'o, CKLB's director of radio, says the territory's funding has allowed the station to bring some programming back in phases, starting with the popular Saturday request show and the aboriginal language programs Dehcho Gohdi  and Tlicho Yati.

By Christmas he says they hope to have three more language programs up and running, along with more English programming and an hour of French programming daily.

Nakehk'o admits that will be a challenge.  

"We were looking in the area of about $900,000, close to a million dollars, to be fully functional, " he told guest host Juanita Taylor on CBC Radio's Trailbreaker.

"That was mostly to pay for our staff and the expertise that we have in our staff with our language broadcasters."  

Can't continue to depend on federal money

Nakehk'o says over the years money from the federal government has become the core of the Native Communication Society's budget.

"We're getting money from a program that was designed specifically to support organisations that broadcast in indigenous languages," Nakehk'o says.

The $7-million fund is divided among 13 organizations, a situation Nakehk'o describes as "awkward."

"We are trying to support indigenous broadcasting but we are also trying to elbow our way in there, see who can get the most of that $7 million."  

He says the station was receiving about $900,000, but the last federal contribution was down to $690,000. The payment schedule, he says, has also been unpredictable and unreliable.  

When Education, Culture and Employment Minister Jackson Lafferty announced territorial funding for the Native Communications Society, he also pledged to help the organization secure federal funding, and to talk about ways "to support the organization with a better financial and operating mode."

The 'Nahanni Butte model'

​Nakehk'o says regional governments and aboriginal governments need to step up to help the organisation upgrade their 1990's, analog-era equipment, and to fix transmitting equipment in places such as Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Simpson and Aklavik, which are currently off the air.  

"If people want CKLB to stay on the air, people will have to support it," he says. "Even if it's maybe 20 bucks from an individual."

​Nakehk'o says they're counting on the "Nahanni Butte model."

The transmitter in the community of 104 people was knocked out after bad flooding in 2012.

"They kept phoning us, but we were like, we just don't have the money."

Eventually the community got a list of the equipment they needed, purchased it and paid for CKLB technical staff to come in and get the station back on the air in the community.  

"So if a community the size of Nahanni Butte can do that, then we are asking all the other communities to do the same and that will be a way for the communities to support us as well."